Healthy Journey – You Are What You Eat

Yesterday I was speaking to a friend of mine and she asked me an interesting question which started a 30+ minute conversation and then got me thinking that maybe I should make a post about this… We chatted about how I am working on my health and losing weight and regaining my life back. She was very happy for me and asked me what I changed in my diet to support the weight loss because it is common knowledge that weight loss and fitness is more than just exercise and it in fact starts in the kitchen!

While there is more to my fitness journey than food, like supplements and vitamins, no one wants to read a 20-page blog post (I’ll save that for my dissertation). Below is a view into what my diet consists of and why.

Breakfast

This is always drilled into us as the most important meal of the day and the skipping this is detrimental. Well, I have to admit that breakfast is almost never on the table (ha, literally) for me -weekdays or weekends. I usually wake up around 6:30am during the weekdays (and that is after hitting snooze a few times) and have to get ready for work and out the door in a little over an hour (yep, I push it close). So sitting down to have toast or cereal or oatmeal…none of that is on my morning list of things to do. So long as I have a few minutes to have my coffee and grab the headlines, I am good to go.

Now you could say I should wake up at 6:00am and make time for a meal but beyond time, I am also simply not hungry. I do not want, nor find the need, to consume calories when I am not hungry. It is almost like eating just for the sheer fact of eating and that is not at all necessary. In fact, the days that I eat breakfast like when I am on a vacation or at a conference, I feel sluggish and bloated.

So what do I have? I have my coffee with almond milk and agave, along with a few vitamins that I can take on an empty stomach, and I’m good to go. I gave up dairy milk about 2 years ago and haven’t looked back though I do consume dairy-based cheese and ice cream so this is not due to an lactose intolerance. I just simply did not like the taste of dairy milk nor did I like the treatment of cows to get said milk but that is for another day. I use agave over stevia or sugar or any other sweetener for a few reasons. Agave is a natural sweetener from the blue agave cactus so if you have ever had tequila, you’ve basically had agave. It has a lower glycemic rating than sugar and because it is liquid, it will mix better in hot or cold beverages. It has a slight earthy taste by itself but once mixed with my coffee, it cannot be tasted. I have tried stevia and have not liked the taste or aftertaste so I stopped testing the 1385 variations I found in the grocery stores. I don’t like other sugar alternatives because of the chemical compounds and eventual breakdown (equal and sweet-n-low have been linked to unsafe levels chlorine once dissolved).

Morning Snack

If I start to feel hungry, I will grab a handful of raw or roasted, unsalted almonds. Almonds are low in fat and have been recently linked to heart health when consumed on an empty stomach because it acts similar to fiber in pushing out that gunk. I may also have a banana to help with my potassium intake and my very small sweet tooth.

Lunch

This is always the heaviest meal of the day for me because I know I am going to be able to burn it throughout the day. I will make sure that I take the time to eat my meal too because a lot of times we are rushing through the day and scarf down whatever is available. I bring food from home that I cooked earlier in the week whenever possible and will make sure it is balanced with some sort of starch and some protein; when I have a salad, I will make sure to have a protein like tuna or chicken and a few crackers. This will keep me going throughout the day without feeling hungry. I also make sure to portion out my food and will usually only take one small individual-sized Pyrex with my whole lunch. Quick to heat and easy to eat.

Afternoon Snack 

When I feel a 3pm-dip coming on, I always have some sort of snack on hand that is not a candy. bar, a donut, or some other heavy food. Again, I tend to turn to a handful of almonds, a piece of fruit, or dark-chocolate raisins. Sometimes on the weekends, I will have some string cheese and a few crackers since I know dinner will most likely be late. If it is going to be a long day, I may snack on a protein bar or a granola bar as well. I will also have a detox tea without sugar or honey -this just helps keep my tummy full and regular without bloat or gas.

Dinner

First rule for me is that I will not eat a heavy dinner. Second, 7pm is my cutoff. Why? Because I know I need to be in bed by 10pm and sleeping by 10:30pm — sleep is one of the other BIG weight loss and healthy actions for the body and I need at least 8 hours. So when I do eat, I tend to have a like protein like chicken or fish and always have to have some sort of vegetable -salad, corn, asparagus, broccoli…

When I do workout, because of my work schedule, it happens to be at 6 or 6:30 in the evening so when I do eat “dinner” it is always after 7pm. When that is the case, my “dinner” is almost always the same –a good-sized bowl of greek yogurt with granola that I buy at Sprouts or Whole Foods and I will add chia seeds and flax. The chia seeds are an excellent source of plant-based protein while the flax is a fiber-source; the yogurt is full of enzymes that help regulate my digestive tract as well as, for women, help with our lady parts; the granola serves also as a fiber and expands in the stomach to help me reach that “full” feeling and not feel deprived. Sometimes I may change things up and add a few shakes of my “Everything But the Bagel” seasoning from Trader Joe’s or a little honey for a hint of sweetness.

Dessert

Never ever deprive yourself of something because that is when you will fall off the wagon and spiral. Now I do not tend to have a sweet tooth but when I want something sweet, I have yogurt ice cream bars in my freezer which surprisingly are delicious (coffee flavored of course) or some fruit -cherries, watermelon, figs and peaches are my favorite when in season.

Water

Now this is what I like to call my secret weapon since I refuse to count calories, cut carbs, or heaven forbid drink those disgusting and useless shakes. Water is the staple for our bodies since we are over 70% water and every organ and system needs water to sustain operation. I actually have an app on my phone that reminds me to consume more water so on my days when I have horse-blinders on and forgot to even eat, I will always remember to drink my water. I drink over 100 ounces of water a day and when I have a workout day, that is the bare minimum.

When I feel adventurous and have the time, I like to add some flavor to my water by adding fruit or herbs. This helps keep things different, adds some vitamins and minerals, and serves as motivation to drink more. It is amazing how adding a few strawberries to your bottle will make you want more water.

Water also helps keep me feeling full so I will always drink a glass before a meal and I will have at least one glass during my meal, whatever that may be.

Miscellaneous

As I mentioned before, I do not and will not deprive myself of the things I enjoy just to shed a few pounds faster because when you have a “cheat day” or a special occasion, you are essentially counteracting everything you do on your other days and may even feel depressed which is detrimental to the success of the journey.

So when I want a beer or some wine, I will consume it in moderation and will make sure to balance it out with my meal, my workout, and my water consumption. For example, if I have a bottle of beer with dinner, I will have a glass of water as well. If I have some popcorn or chips, I will make sure that I will go an extra 10 minutes or take a small walk. If I have some tempting gelato or pizza, the next day will be a salad and few extra ounces of water.

I also have to mention that I will not turn to meal supplements like SlimFast or shakes that promise to help you lose weight. I have done more than enough research and those are all a part of fad diets. I do have protein powder in my kitchen and protein bars at my desk at work. I will admit that I have tried quite a gambit of shakes and meal replacements in my day and they are not effective, especially long term. Yes, you may feel better the first few days, but the longer you deprive yourself, the worse it gets and the harder it is to stay on track. Also, if you want the vitamins and minerals that these powder drinks offer, you may want to look at actual vitamins that your body, based on your needs, will actually help.

So tell me, what diet have you tried that has helped you? What is your daily food regimen?

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Face on Fleek

Is that even still a thing? A word? “Fleek”. Amazing how the English language can adapt and add new words because of the generational lingo.

So let’s get to the real reason for this post since I know a few of my English major friends are cringing as they read on… Moving to the Central Valley of California, saying that the summer weather is hot and dry is one of the understatements of the year. There are days were the humidity does not even hit double digits though the thermometers are reading 105 degrees Fahrenheit easily. So coming here and trying to survive my first summer after spending 5+ years in Florida, and New Jersey before that, well my skin was in for a surprise. So I had to find a fix and fast because my face was experiencing dryness, flaking, redness, itchiness…the whole gambit. And to make matters worse, my skin is super sensitive so it was not like I could go to Walgreens and pick up the first moisturizer on sale and call it a day. I had to research, test, and even cross my fingers a little to find something that worked! And I could not just stop at my facial skin, but I had to do something about my chapped lips and even my under eyes. That’s when a trip to Sephora and Ulta led me to my top 3 tried and true products.

Now I am getting compliments on my skin, its radiance, how smooth it feels…and my makeup, when I want to wear any, goes on smooth. I am very grateful to have found my signature three products and while I do test others and have a few items I use seldom, these are the three that I keep returning to!

For Lips: Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask – $20 (0.70oz)

This lip mask is not the same as your Eos balm or the Chapstick on your nightstand -that I can promise you. This lip mask is very thick which is why the little spatula is included. It goes on very nicely, has a very minimal fragrance at first application and is not sticky. It usually lasts the whole night for me and when I wake up in the morning, I wipe it off and my lips are hydrated and supple! My husband even tries to steal some of the product here and there! I do not use this every night but can if necessary (like in winter months). I have had this now for 4 months and it is about 1/4 of the way used so even though you get less than 1 ounce, this product will last a very long time.

For eyes: Belif Moisturizing Eye Bomb – $48 (0.84 ounces)

This water based eye cream has helped take my under eyes from dry and itchy to moisturized and healthy. This has even helped fade my dark circles. It claims to work for 26-hours and I have to say that while that is false, this does work through the night and into the next morning. On particularly trying days, and often some dehydration or stress, when my eyes are particularly puffy or dry, this also lasts throughout the day. As an occasional contact lens wearer, with seasonal allergies as well, this product has not once irritated my eyes even when I cheat and put some under my eyebrows.

For Face: Trio logo Certified Organic Rose Hip Oil – $29 (0.67oz)

Now I know you are sitting there saying “Didn’t she say all of two paragraphs earlier that she has sensitive skin so why would she use an oil?” Well, sensitive skin actually responds best to minimal ingredient products with less fragrances and additives, so an organic facial oil is one of the best things to use.

Okay but what if I told you that I also have combination to oily skin? I shouldn’t use this product repeatedly then, right? I must get breakouts! So nope on all accounts! This oil is fine and light enough that it does not clog pores, does not have added fragrances (so no it does not smell like old lady perfume), and it helps keep my skin balanced so there is no over production of oil.

This oil also helps fight free radicals and even has a more concentrated version available at Ulta. I only have to use three drops for my cheeks and nose, three drops for my forehead and chin, and three drops for my neck (yes, my neck gets some love too) so a little goes a long way! This then lasts all night and I can either wipe it off in the morning for any excess left behind or just add my BB cream on top and call it a day!

So now it is your turn… What products are your top 3 skin care products? Have you tried any of the ones I mentioned?

Healthy Journey – Catching Zzz’s

Before I started my healthy journey, I was barely sleeping 6 cumulative hours a night when I used to cherish my 8+ nights. This directly contributed to my stress levels which in turn led to my weight gain and kept the vicious cycle going. Additionally, the sleep deprivation had other consequences like communication issues with my husband and family, inability to focus, delayed reaction times, and so much more.

So one of the first areas I focused on making adjustments was with my sleeping habits. After some research, trial & error, and prior knowledge, I incorporated some key features to help me catch those elusive Zzzz’s. Below are the top 9 things I do to improve my sleep and overall well-being. I will try to link the products I use in case you are interested to give it a try for yourself – just remember that I am an Amazon junkie so most items are ordered!

      1. Clean my space – I cannot sleep when the room is full of clutter so I always have to make sure that the room is clear. For example, all of the clothes have to be put away, the shoes are in the closet, and any puppy toys that may have migrated in are put in their play box. A decluttered room means a room with better air flow and a simpler and quieter space.
      1. Taking my nightly vitamins – Some people think that the only time you can take vitamins are with your morning coffee. Now there are some vitamins that should not be taken together as they counteract each other and prove to be less effective or altogether harmful. However my rationale for taking some vitamins at night was to space out my vitamins but also because certain vitamins made me sleepy. For example, as far as I can remember, vitamin C acted like a sleeping pill for me – whether I took it as orange juice, a standalone vitamin, or as a part of a multivitamin ($11.10). I also take magnesium every other night to help my muscles and reduce muscle cramping. I bought mine from Amazon ($10.79)
      1.  Crank up my sound machine – This may sound silly for some but to clear my head and focus, I need to have my surrounding support my focus. Back in Florida, I had a sound machine that helped cancel out any TV sounds from my neighbors, the puppies trying to get attention, my husband typing away on his laptop, the fifth car alarm going off in the parking lot or the fire engine that just always seems to drive by when I was ready to call it a night. So when Amazon had a great lightning deal and I had the chance to replace the sound machine that I gave to my mom, I was thrilled! I did not have to use my phone anymore and could really disconnect. Mine was from Pure Enrichment and it is black and half the price of what I found is currently listed but it is a simple sound machine that takes up almost no space on my nightstand ($29.99).
      1. Color – Yep, you read that correctly – almost every night, especially after a rough day, I will take 15-20 minutes to color with my colored pencils and mandala book. Like my sound machine, this helps me clear my head and stop focusing on events from the day. Plus it helps me build my patience because I was always that kid that colored everywhere BUT in the lines.
      1. Pray –  I am not the most religious person but ever since I was a child, I always had my nightly prayers. Sometimes it was for a sick relative, sometimes it was in vain and was for a delay on a school test, but whatever it was for, I always took the 5 minutes to pray. Maybe it was the ideaology of being a part of something bigger than oneself, or maybe it was something else, but having that informal connection with God is always a part of my night.
      1. Complete my nightly skincare routine – I always make it a point to take off the day before I crawl into bed and prepare my skin for some TLC and repair. Though I will go into this into more detail in a future post, I always wash off all of my makeup, use a toner, apply a face oil, an eye cream, and a lip masque (especially now that I live in a. very arid climate).
      1. Complete my nightly dental routine – This is a given but I always make sure that I floss, brush, and rinse with mouthwash before going to bed. I also use my Invisalign guard but that is probably for another day. There have even been nights where I was so tired I passed out before brushing and will wake up, brush, and then go back to bed.
      1. Moisturize – So beyond my face, I always take a few minutes to apply a moisturizer to my body and typically it has a lavender or chamomile scent to help lull me into a deep sleep.
        SLEEP – Lavender and Cedarwood Body Cream
        I also have Keratosis pilaris which is more commonly known as chicken skin or permanent goosebumps. The moisturizer I use for my upper arms help exfoliate and reduce the inflammation. I have bought Amlactin ($12.59) from Amazon, Walgreens, and most recently at Costco (which is the best deal) and would recommend you buy the small bottle first to test it out before the full commitment.
      1. Set the room – I need to make sure that my room’s ambiance helps set the stage for a restful night so I draw my blackout curtains from Target (Rune Printed Heathered Blackout Panel) and fill the room with the scent of lavender which really helps me calm down and drift into a restful night. I have used the Febreeze brand with Mediterranean Lavender but recently switched to a more conscientious and inexpensive brand, Mrs. Meyers ($5.89):

        All of these steps or products have helped me get a better night’s sleep and made me feel more refreshed for the next day. Yes, there are some nights were I cannot go through my checklist of items like when I am traveling or simply too tired to give it my all, but I always make it a point to give a few minutes to myself at the end of every day to put the cell phone away, turn off the computer, and disconnect.So tell me…what do you do to have a restful night? Do you have any tips or tricks that you find particularly helpful?

Healthy Journey – Currently In Progress!

I want to preface that this is the first post of many regarding my fitness journey, but this is not the only thing my blog is about — there will be plenty of other goodies coming up!

Some of you may know that 2017 was a tumultuous year for me and my family. I started a new job with a very long commute, I got married, I postponed my honeymoon, I moved back in with my parents (and husband!), I survived my first hurricane with no power for a week, I relocated across the country in 4.5 days, I started a new job, and ultimately I had to give up some of my independence. So with all of that, the number one thing that took a back burner was my personal health!

I have always had some health issues and the past few years have been particularly problematic with medications and treatments. Those led to other issues and weight fluctuations which doctors wanted to start additional tests, treatments, and medications. Then I started a position that was extremely stressful which taught me just how taxing stress is on one’s overall health! Fast forward a couple of months and I am now driving across the country with my husband, two dogs, and a trailer which needless to say was QUITE stressful in itself.

Before I knew it, I stepped on a scale at my doctor’s office and hit 200 pounds. I had my blood work done and my stats were not at all ideal. It was at the point that I was gaining 1-2 pounds per week. My clothes no longer fit. I couldn’t sleep. I felt sluggish. I sat all day at my desk at work. I couldn’t wear anything other than flats and by time I got home, my feet were twice their normal size. Then I tried to take off my wedding band and it wouldn’t budge. That is when I lost it. I literally sat on the floor of my bedroom and cried. And cried. And then I decided I had enough. Enough medications, enough testing, enough doctor appointments, enough feeling sorry for myself, enough putting myself second.

So my husband and I, on April 13th, 2018, took measurements of our bodies as well as photos and decided that we were going to put ourselves first. He opted to use the gym in our complex and I enrolled at CycleBar to start spinning. Somewhere between sweating like I was in a sauna and being yelled at by the coach (she is amazing), I started to feel like me again – I found me.

Two months after starting spin, I decreased my 4x a week attendance to 2x a week and introduced Orange Theory Fitness. In the two months I had lost 16 pounds and wanted to start getting some of my strength back. So I opted to start going to Orange Theory 2x a week and push myself well outside of my comfort zone every time, but I know this is an uphill battle. In fact on July 7th I was able to jog on a treadmill for the first time in almost a decade!

Now I know that a lot of people say this but I really do not like to post photos of myself, especially in a bikini, especially when I was at my worst, but if I can prove to inspire just one person to get up, I know that this will be worth it. Ladies and gentlemen…the scale may not reflect the changes my body has undergone these past 3 months, but my non-weight victories are clear!

It is only the beginning, but through continuous physical activity, saying “yes” when my body wanted to say “heck no”, making some dietary changes (more about this in a future post), and wanting more out of my life, my health journey is clearly underway.

Now tell me… what health goals do you have? What questions do you have on exercise regimens? Comment below!

Recipe: Stuffed Bell Peppers with Turkey

While everyone says that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, I say that lunch should be the biggest!

Some of you know that I am on a healthy journey and trying to lose some weight that stress, moving, and the holidays have all packed on. One of the changes I wanted to make was to take a page from the Mediterranean diet and make lunch my biggest meal. This helps me to eat and burn. In other words, I am not going to bed after eating a large meal and letting my body turn those calories into sugar which adds to those hips! By eating a larger meal at lunch, I am active for hours following which means those calories are absorbed as energy instead!

So one of the best things about living in California is the abundance of produce no matter what time of the year! After a trip to the grocery store this past weekend, I came home with a receipt that was way too long but managed to scoop out some great items! One of which was these amazing red bell peppers. So what to do with these sweet treats?


Stuffed Red Bell Peppers with Grounded Turkey and Basmati Rice

IMG_2191

Ingredients

  • 4 large green bell peppers
  • 1½ teaspoons extra virgin cold pressed olive oil
  • 1 medium Spanish onion, chopped
  • 6 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 1½ cups cooked basmati rice
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce, (1 cup), divided
  • 1 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt (add more to taste)
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions

  1. Make sure that your Basmati rice is cooked al dente. Remember that it will cook a little more in the peppers!
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  3. Hollow out the peppers by cutting out stem ends of bell peppers; I saved the tops to put on top for decoration. Scoop out seeds.
  4. Make sure the bottom of your large nonstick skillet is coated with olive oil. Heat the oil in over medium heat. Add onion, shallots, and garlic and cook, until the onions are soft (about 3-5 minutes). Add turkey mixing with the onions, shallots, and garlic, just until it looks brownish, about 2-4 minutes.
  5. Add precooked Basmati rice and mix with turkey. Add 1 cup of tomato sauce and continue to mix together. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Stuff the peppers with the mixture, leaving behind any fat and place them in an oven-safe dish like a 2-quart casserole dish. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes to finish cooking the meat and rice mixture. Then cover and finish baking for 10-15 minutes until peppers are tender.

If you would like the recipe for my kale salad, please let me know in the comments below! I will make sure to post more recipes in the future!

Please make sure to comment, like, and follow me on my other social media platforms so I know what you would like to see more of! Stay tuned for my next product review!

Brainfuel and Coffee

I am proud to call myself a coffee addict. I am not trying to be a part of Coffee Addicts Anonymous. But rather I am declaring my love for that morning wake-me-up. And I can almost say with 100% confidence that those around me love that I have my morning cup (or two since we are being honest) because without it I admit to limited functionality…and even some outbursts of aggression.

So I started to research some new additives for my coffee to change it up a little. I tried creamers which were quickly shot down because of the heaviness of the cream and the chemicals in many of the popular brands. I tried adding a shot or two of Starbucks sugar syrups only to realize how many empty calories I was consuming! I also came the realization that I don’t like my coffee that sweet anyway. I tried different types of milk -whole to 1% but all of them hurt my tummy though I am not lactose intolerant. I then came across this ideaology called “Bulletproof Coffee” with the catchy headline that stated:

“It’s a high-performance drink that has a massive impact on your energy and cognitive function. Bulletproof Coffee has helped everyone from driven CEOs to professional athletes to busy parents increase their energy so they can do more of what fulfills them.”

Intrigued at the opportunity to essentially spike my Coffee game and get an increase amount of energy that is supposed to last throughout the day, I jumped on the bandwagon.

I found a recipe online which consisted of the Bulletproof coffee (substituted for my Kirkland coffee), ghee (think butter fat) and bought the Brain Octane Oil on Amazon.

The results that are expressed on Bulletproof’s website state that I should experience the following:

1) Suppressed hunger. Brain Octane Oil balances ghrelin and CCK, your hunger hormones, keeping you full until lunch.

2) Steady lasting energy. The saturated fat in grass-fed butter slows the absorption of caffeine, which gives you even energy for several hours instead of a caffeine spike and crash. No jitters, either.

3) Mental clarity. Brain Octane rapidly converts to ketones, a type of molecule that your brain uses more efficiently than carbs or sugar.

Okay so I didn’t use the Bulletproof coffee but couldn’t justify paying $14.99+ for 12 ounces of grounded coffee beans. So I guess the question is if the ghee and oil helped? The answer is: NO.

I have been testing out the oil component several ways over the course of a few weeks now to give it a fair shake and I cannot notice a difference at all except that my coffee now leaves my lips moisturized and there looks to be a film on the top of my cup. I blended it and it did nothing to make it better other than a frothy cup of coffee -also nearly impossible to do during the week because it’s more of a pour and go in the morning. I tried it without the ghee because who needs all those calories -even if that means 10 more minutes of “energy” and returned to my almond milk.

I still have some oil left and even got my husband to try it but I am not sure we are going to continue using it. Adding an oil to your coffee just doesn’t seem appealing. Therefore the final review is that this seems to be ineffective for me and I will be passing on pumping octane oil into my system from now on.

A Little More Air

As part of my objectives for improving my health, and not to be mistaken as a New Year’s resolution, I wanted to find ways to improve the quality of my breath. Sounds crazy, right? Breathing is an innate function – you do it without thinking and when you really need a little extra oomph, you yawn. What I mean is that I need to take more time to be cognizant of the breath I take and the quality of that breath. Am I anxious? Am I frustrated? Am I sleepy? Am I calm? Was that a sigh of relief or of frustration?

In order to get started, I needed to make sure that I started to look inwards to improve my health. Now, I can certainly say I am doing fine and all of the issues that plague me are environmental, but that would just be a lie. A lot of my motivation and my feeling of self were unaligned. Therefore, I started mediation. No, I wasn’t sitting on a yoga mat, burning incense and listening to monk chants (not that there is anything wrong with that but let me start small)… I downloaded an app called “Calm” from the iOS App Store. The app leads you through guided meditation, most sessions not being more than 10 minutes long. It guides you through deep breathing and through becoming aware of one’s self. I have completed the 7-day introductory package and am moving on to the 21-day course.

In addition to dedicating 10 minutes each evening before bed, and yes the husband is fully supportive and even makes sure our little puppies don’t intrude, I wanted to improve the quality of my breath in one my most stressful times -commuting. Sitting in traffic on the way to work, when you have an 8am meeting and it is already 7:50 with at least another 10 minute drive ahead of you…well that is nerve racking and even a 10-minute guided session could not help relax the nerves. So I opted for a more holistic approach coupled with one of the strongest senses a person has – I started to diffuse essential oils in my car with my diffuser every day. I also purchased a charcoal air purifier.

The diffuser I purchased was not super expensive as this was more of a trial with high hopes. I ordered it from Amazon for $12.99 with prime shipping (free 2-day delivery). It comes with an extra cotton wick and very easy instructions. You need to use distilled or filtered water and whatever essential oil of your choice, but it should be water soluble. Then you plug it in, turn it on, and just like that I had a clean scent that filled my car and some added clean humidity to help relieve that cough from dry air and pollution. Rating: 🎋🎋🎋

Then there was the charcoal-based air purifier that the car needed badly. With two adults and two Boxers sharing a small car, the car ends up smelling like a locker room over time. No Febreeze clip-in, spray, rolling down of windows, or those weird tree-shaped scents would help mask the odors. So instead of masking, I wanted to find something that would absorb and neutralize the scent, leaving it fresh and ready for my essential oils. I wanted something healthy that would support my healthier journey and would not deteriorate because of changes in temperature or sun. After some research, I found the Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag that contains 200mg of natural bamboo charcoal. After the first hour of having this inside the car, the car already smelled like it had recently been vacuumed! And this was only $9.95 with prime shipping. It does not have any fragrance or chemicals so it does not interfere with the essentials oils nor is it harmful to the puppies, my husband, or myself. Rating: 🎋🎋🎋🎋

I have been using all three of these techniques for the past week and I have to say that while the effects are subtle, I have noticed that especially during those AM commutes, I am not as easily agitated (even though my coffee is still waiting to be consumed). I noticed that I do not have the sniffles in the car as much and that the scent of the diffuser is subtle enough to make it smell like lavender and the ocean but does not overpower the vehicle or evaporate by exposure.

One day at a time and one deep breath in through the nose and exhale through the mouth… That is one step closer to improved health and better quality breaths.

Ulta Mini Haul

When you have curly hair and are running low on products, have a birthday coupon and a sale running all at the same time combined with a day off…well, you have the recipe of an Ulta mini haul.

It might not look like a lot but trust me that the receipt says differently! After coupons, sales tax, and me going a little overboard (c’mon who doesn’t from time to time), my grand total was $233.22. Honestly, this will last me and my husband for a couple of months so I do not feel that it is too bad of a deal!

I have used all of these products now, some more than others, so I wanted to do a little break down of the products, cost, and especially for my curly girls, the benefits. Each product photo will link to the Ulta website if the product is available and will have a rating -this week will be little piglets since I am a smidge obsessed!


Dose of Color (regularly $18.00) – This is a nice liquid lipstick in a dark salmon, burnt Siena color that does not feel very dry. It does not last all day but especially when you’re an avid coffee drinker like myself, it is almost impossible to find that perfect product. It goes on smoothly and fades evenly. It does not have a strong odor. It was my first DOC product and I am happy with the purchase but probably won’t run to buy another. I have found other products that are more pigmented and with a better-staying power. Rating: 🐷 < strong>Tarte Shape Tape Concealer (regularly $27.00) – There is no comparison for this product on the market that I have been able to find. This concealer, though limited by its shades especially for olive and darker skin tones, is a stay-all-day, no crease, non-oily, non-drying concealer. A little goes a long way so this is worth the splurge. I have even spoken with Sephora employees that flock to this product time and time again. With a little setting powder, you can get a full day out of the product. It is intense coverage without being heavy so it doesn’t clog my pores or affect my sensitive skin. This is a rebuy and I will continue to flock to this product. Rating: 🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷DevaCurl Melt Into Moisture Mask (regularly $36.00) – When you live in a climate that has very little humidity, some colder temperatures and work in an office with what seems like recirculated air, your hair starts to suffer. When you have those issues and have curly hair? Well, that’s just asking for trouble! I never had the need to deep condition as much as I do now and finding a product that was good to my hair (meaning free of parabens, sulfates, and other harmful chemicals), while still affordable and doesn’t leave my hair greasy enough to coat a frying pan…well, that was a challenge. However, I bought the sample size of this mask and both my husband and I used it several times now and I am so grateful for having this. It has a strong but mild scent that is very enjoyable -almost matcha green tea like. You do need to use a good helping depending on the length of your hair, but I find that if I make my hair just a tad damp, this product goes a bit farther. You can leave this on overnight (I’ve done that when my hair was super dry), leave it on for 20 minutes, use a heat cap, or leave your hair in a messy bun for however long you want and yes, I have tried all of these methods -my favorite is with a heated cap or a messy bun for a couple of hours. Rating: 🐷🐷🐷🐷

DevaCurl Super Cream (regularly $28.00) – This product was a bonus for me because my Ulta was selling liter bottles, with a free Super Cream, during a recent sale. So I definitely scored with this one because this is a great product. This is a coconut oil infused cream that does not weigh down your curl unless you want to stretch them out (it is all about application and styling). This helps control my frizz and actually gives my curls a little extra oomph to be just a little bit tighter. My hair is soft, has movement and body and is really great for refresh days after I spray a little water on my hair. Rating:🐷🐷🐷🐷 DevaCurl One Conditioner (regularly $44.00) – With long curly hair, and a husband with tight curls, the liter size products are the only way to go! This is a daily conditioner that is packed with essentials oils and has a beautiful lemongrass scent; don’t worry though, the scent does not stay in the hair forever so you won’t get sick of it! It is a very thick conditioner with a lot of slip and contains olive oil to help strengthen and revive the shine in my curls. Rating:🐷🐷🐷

DevaCurl Low Poo (regularly $44.00) – Though this is technically marketed to “wavy” hair, I use this product versus the “No Poo” because I need a real cleanser. With the amount of deep conditioning, masks, and treatments that I do, along with the products that I use to keep my curls intact, I prefer a cleanser that will remove the build-up without damaging my hair. The “No Poo” is great and I have that too, but I needed something a little stronger on the cleansing side versus the conditioning. This scent is amazing and has a light lotus flower/citrus scent that wakes up the senses. It is a very mild lather that is gentle yet thorough. It does have rice protein so if you are protein-sensitive, this may not be the best option for you. Rating:🐷🐷🐷

DevaCurl Hairspray (regularly $25.00) – Sometimes you want that extra hold but gel won’t cut it. Sometimes you want to help speed up the drying process (yep, a little trade secret) because you don’t have 4 hours to wait for your hair to air dry. Sometimes you want to slick back those baby-hairs without locking them down when you rock an updo. This is a flexible hairspray so my hair is not crunchy but also not flying around everywhere. It again has protein so you should be careful if you are sensitive. It is lavender scented and the scent does linger so if you are sensitive to smells, this may not be ideal. The best part is that because it is a DevaCurl product, it is always sulfate, paraben and silicone free. Rating:🐷🐷🐷🐷

Skyn Iceland Hydro Cool Firming Eye Gels (regularly $15.00) – This was a first time buy for me but this will not be the last! With my sensitive skin, finding products that help without hurting is tough. But my eyes were looking a little tired and puffy regardless of how much water I drank or sleep I got, so I needed to try something to help. These patches are cool to the touch so they almost immediately reduced the swelling. The peptides and botanical oils help improve blood flow making the dark circles look less visible. These, like most of my products, are paraben, sulfate, phthalate, petroleum, and mineral oil free. Rating:🐷🐷🐷 Mario Badescu Drying Lotion (regularly $17.00) – I want to think I have flawless skin, but being realistic, my skin has a break out here and there -especially during that monthly visit! So when I start to notice a little pimple popping up, I apply this drying lotion at night and wake up with a visibly reduced break-out. This is a repurchase for me and I will continue to use this product! This is a spot treatment with salicylic acid, calamine, and other drying ingredients. Don’t shake the bottle though! Just use a cotton swab and dip it in the product to apply to a certain spot, or two. Bonus: when you get a mosquito bite, applying this will help the itchiness and dry up the bubble very quickly! Rating: 🐷🐷🐷🐷


I hope this helps you on your next stop at Ulta! I will keep you updated on any future hauls and if any of the products are kicked from the top for something new!

Winter Product Flop

After moving to central California after living in southern Florida for a few years, my skin was responding well. My normally oily and sensitive skin was dry, flaky, sensitive and dull. The humidity is Florida is nothing to joke about but it was certainly good for my skin!

Well, fast forward to month 4 in the new climate and while I found some products that helped revive my skin, it was still not at its normal state. It was no longer dry but it wasn’t oily either -I guess my new normal was combination? Anyway, I wanted to find something to help slough off the dead skin cells and bring back that healthy glow. That’s when I had the bright idea to use my birthday coupon and gift card to Sephora to try another product from Peter Thomas Roth -whose masks and creams are amazing.

This toner is notated for all skin types and is meant to help reduce wrinkles, improve radiance and boost smoothness. It was recommended to use daily. But just because there are some directions on the box, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know your own body well enough to create your own regimen.

Because I knew my skin has always been sensitive, I started trying this out with one day yes and one day no. I had used Alpha Hydroxy Acids (or AHA’s) in the past and I knew I could tolerate it but this was a new product so I wanted to start slow. Day 1 was fine but I felt a little tingle -that’s normal when you apply a light acid topically, but no negative side effects. Day 2 (which technically was day 3 but you get the idea), I did the same thing -wash with my Clarisonic brush, apply toner, apply eye cream, apply moisturizer and hit the sack. The next morning my skin started to break out a bit but I though “hey, maybe it’s stress” so I went for day 3 of the product application… Well, after a week of every-other-day, I didn’t seem to have a bad reaction, so I thought, and bumped up my regimen to daily. Big mistake.

This was the result of back-to-back applications and please excuse the lack of makeup but I wanted to show the full effect:

That’s when I knew it was time to discontinue use immediately and try to fix the damage.

Thankfully I still had my Sephora receipt and their return policy is amazing. I walked in to my local store and was able to show the clerk what happened to my skin and without any further explanation, the product was returned and she said that it was probably too strong for my skin. Boy was she right!

I am now trying to mend the breakouts and rash with my tried and true products before trying anything new. I also am refraining from any makeup which makes me glad it’s a 3-day weekend and I don’t have to go back to the office till Tuesday!

In the end, I still love the Peter Thomas Roth line but I have to say that this product was a flop.

Until next time!

First Impression…Very Impressed!

Normally when it comes to trying mascara, I am very hesitant because I have sensitive eyes and if the mascara flakes, my eyes will react very badly. However, I opted to give this one a real try because the L’Oreal brand has proven to be fairly reliable in the past. Well, when I first got it, the package did not do it justice because it looks like an old tube of mascara that just got re-packaged. Then I opened the tube and that brush looks like a medieval torture device especially if I was going to attempt my bottom lashes at all. Right out of the tube, the product was clumpy and did have a bit of a typical mascara smell but I still applied one coat to give it a fair chance.
As you can see by the photos below, the bottom shot (excuse my sleep deprived eyes) has no product and after ONE coat, my lashes look longer and fuller -even my bottom lashes! This product truly separated, curled, and added volume to my normally long but thin lash lines. You have to have a steady hand as the brush is not the most user-friendly. However, there was almost no fallout from the mascara even after 10 hours! It also removed easily without heavy makeup remover.
Overall, I would give this a very high 9 as I would like to give it a few more tries before making my final determination (especially to see what happens to the formula upon oxidation) but so far, as a first impression, this is amazing!image1